Monday, April 4, 2016

Core Post # 4 Hard Core Masculinity in Beauty and the Beast

When I was a little girl, my favorite Disney movie was Beauty and the Beast because Belle had brown hair like me. And she like to read, like me. And she loved her dad even though he was a little weird, like me. And I always loved that she completely rejected Gaston, the hard bodied antagonist that all the blonde bimbos swooned over.

As many times as I've seen the movie (as a child and now as an adult) I see new things every time. I was about 16 when I realized Belle was a feminist. (I already knew Gaston was a male chauvinist pig, lol) But reading Jeffords' "Terminal Masculinity" was fascinating because she addresses how an animated Disney movie and its characters fit into the larger cultural/cinematic shift of hard bodied macho men to hard bodied man with a gooey center. 

After rewatching the movie, it was so interesting to see the juxtaposition of the hard-bodied male (complete with all the stereotypes about what he should think and do) against the less appealing male who is damaged and on an internal journey to right himself. We're rooting for The Beast, not just because Gaston is an asshole, but because we want to see The Beast complete his character arc and be redeemed. His transformation back into the Prince was advertised at the beginning of the movie, and the audience is eager to see it. 

In a movie like Die Hard,  we want McClane to reconcile with his wife, but what we REALLY want this hard-bodied white guy to do is throw Hans Gruber off the roof. It's almost as if we are waiting and rooting for that chiseled muscular body to deliver on the promise of being able to do something amazing and aren't satisfied until it does. As Jeffords notes, it's not really until the later sequels in the 90s that the audience roots for an internal change in John McClane. 

As for poor Gaston, like all the true Disney villains, he fell to his death unable to woo the beautiful heroine with his stunning good looks.

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